|Steve Washburn (Getty Images)
After a career ending back injury that led him to retire in 2008, former Panther Steve Washburn is now working at his second passion in life: technology.
Washburn, his wife and two children just made the move back to sunny South Florida and couldn’t be happier to be back. With that, it was a chance to catch up with Washburn where he reminisced on some hockey memories and spoke on what he is up to now.
Washburn was drafted by the Panthers in the 1993 NHL Draft in the third round (78th overall). He played four seasons for the Panthers recording 14 goals and 15 assists in his 81 games played. Later in his NHL career, Washburn appeared for the Vancouver Canucks in 1998-99 and for the Philadelphia Flyers from 1999-01.
Getting to play in the NHL is special and one thing that resonates in his mind as his favorite memory was playing his first game in the NHL in which he suited up for the very first game in Panther history in Chicago.
“It had to be my first game. It was at the old stadium,” said Washburn recently. “(It was) Something I’ve never done before, playing in front of a crowd that size.”
He was also fortunate enough to be a part of the 1996 Panther team to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals. He played in one game for the Panthers during their Cup run and registered an assist. He feels fortunate to have gotten to experience playoff hockey and has good memories of those days.
“It was great. Just being able to travel and the experience to see what the players go through when they get to that stage of the playoffs” said Washburn. “A lot of players don’t get to experience that. Just to have that kind of experience under my belt, it was a great experience.”
After having a great AHL season in 2000-01, a Switzerland team became interested in Washburn so he figured he would take the opportunity to go to Europe and play there.
While in Europe he played three years in Germany, half a season in Denmark and four years in Austria. Hamburg was his favorite city to play in because of its gorgeous scenery along with great shopping and restaurants. There were lots of fans and excitement surrounding hockey over there. His daughter was also born there which makes Hamburg that much more special. He discussed the few differences in how teams are run in Europe vs. the NHL.
“Money comes from sponsors so you have lots of ads on your jersey. The countries are small so there is less travel and more time at home” said Washburn. “The atmosphere is a really cool experience.
“I would have family and friends who couldn’t believe the difference in atmosphere. It’s similar to college hockey.”
Unfortunately Washburn injured his back and retired in 2008 because of a herniated disk in his back. After he retired he decided to go back to school for two years.
“I taught myself a lot about technology and computers and how to build and fix them but I never had the paperwork,” said Washburn on his reason for returning to school.
Both Washburn and his wife went back to school and came to a crossroads of what to do next. His wife’s family was from the Boca Raton area so they made the decision to move back to Florida. They didn’t want to look back later and regret not moving. His children were also just eight and six so they took a chance and decided to move back down to where he began his NHL career.
Washburn acknowledges it was tough to leave his family in his hometown of Ottawa but loves that his wife can now be near her family. He has been thankful for the support of the Panthers Alumni in helping him make his transition back to South Florida easier.
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“I had a lot of family and friends I left behind, two brothers, mom and dad. They have families now so that part is tough thinking I won’t be able to see my nieces and nephews grow up,” said Washburn. “My wife does have a family down here as well and it’s tough to miss the snow. It’s a good opportunity for her to be near her family and the kids love it here as well.”
Now Washburn finds himself immersed in the world of technology and IT. He is currently working in IT for a company in Pompano. He was always interested in gadgets and wanted to know how things worked.
“First year I turned pro, I bought a laptop and wanted to know how it worked,” said Washburn. “It snowballed from there. I was fortunate enough to be passionate about two things: hockey and technology.”
Unfortunately because of his back surgery Washburn struggles with participating in activities he used to love.
“I used to enjoy golf but because of my back surgery I’m unable to play anymore and same goes for hockey. I used to play once or twice a month but the back stiffens up pretty quick,” said Washburn. “I really enjoy coaching though. I’m helping out with my son’s hockey on the weekends. It’s nice being involved in the game.”
Washburn admits that he has stayed in contact with some former teammates over the years thanks in large part to technology.
“A lot of them are on Facebook. Technology is a lot easier now,” said Washburn. “Adrian Aucoin, who’s still playing, we send emails back and forth. Hockey is a small community and me being on the Senators Alumni I was able to keep track of a lot of players especially my age who are just starting to retire like Shean Donovan, Brad Smith and Trevor Doyle.”